Are your health issues caused by a gut problem? Odds are, if you’re suffering with a chronic health problem, your gut is part of the problem. In Functional Medicine, the health of the gut (your digestive tract including the stomach, small intestine and large intestine) is of the upmost importance. If you have a “gut problem” which one do you have? Food allergies or sensitivities? Leaky gut? SIBO? You might have one of these issues or all of them. This can get a bit confusing and frustrating! Lets take a look at these 3 common health issues and how they can lead to poor health and body stress.

Food Allergy

I have written extensively about food allergy and food sensitivity, so I will not go to too much detail about this problem; if you are looking for more information on this particular topic, go to our website and type “food allergy” in the search box for more articles. The basic problem with a food allergy or sensitivity is that your immune system is overreacting to foods you are eating. This immune system response leads to inflammation in the gut. Inflammation is common to every chronic health issue; identifying these foods and removing / reducing them in the diet is essential. There are several diets you can follow that remove many of the common food allergies and sensitivities; AIP and Whole 30 are often used for this purpose. If you have tried these diets but have not seen improvement, then you may have a combination of dietary issues. In addition to food allergies and sensitivities, you may suffer with food histamine, lectin or o

xalate issues. Identifying foods that are compromising your health can be challenging. If you are not sure where to begin, you may want to seek the help of a functional medicine or integrative medicine doctor who can help you sort out these food issues. At our Naperville office, we perform tests that can help identify various food-related problems.

Leaky Gut

What is a leaky gut? When we use the term “leaky gut” we are referring to the small intestine. This is the section of your digestive tract where you absorb nutrition from the food you eat.

When it becomes “leaky”, it means the contents of your digestive tract gain unregulated access to the rest of your body. Food particles, bacteria, yeast, etc. now have easy access to your blood stream and the rest of your body. This puts stress on your liver and immune system. Causes of leaky gut are numerous, but some of the most common are antibiotics, stress, antacids, food allergies or sensitivities and nutrient deficiencies. Leaky gut and food allergies are often found together; leaky gut can lead to food problems and food problems can lead to leaky gut. If you continue to consume foods that trigger the immune system, you will have a difficult time getting your gut to heal and stop being “leaky.” In addition to food issues…SIBO, stress, cortisol, thyroid and nutrient deficiencies can cause a leaky gut.

SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)

SIBO is a gut problem that is caused by the overgrowth of bacteria in your small intestine. We all have some bacteria in the small intestine, but if too many locate here, problems with digestion begin to occur. The bacteria of your gut should be in your large intestine and not in the small intestine. The food from your stomach travels into your small intestine where you should absorb it…YOU, not bacteria. If you have lots of bacteria in your small intestine, they are gaining access to nutrition your body should be getting. Under healthy conditions, you would absorb the carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals your body needs. All that would be left behind would be fiber. This fiber would then travel to the large intestine to feed the bacteria. The bacteria in your digestive tract should only have access to what you can’t use (fiber), not the rest of the food you are eating. This is what prebiotics are; fiber. Probiotics are bacteria and prebiotics are the food they eat…fiber.

Common symptoms of SIBO include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating and gas
  • Loose stool
  • Constipation

SIBO can be caused by antacids, stress, constipation, a sluggish digestive tract and yes, food sensitivities. If your digestive tract is healthy then you won’t get SIBO. You only get SIBO if the environment of your small intestine altered; meaning it is now friendly and suitable for bacterial overgrowth. SIBO is a condition that develops AFTER you lose proper gut function. A healthy gut will not permit excessive bacteria to stay and thrive in the small intestine. You need to improve gut function to eradicate SIBO. Antibiotics are often used to treat SIBO, but the condition usually returns. Why? Because the bacteria will just end up back in the small intestine. Why? The environment of the small intestine has not been corrected…the bacteria just find their way back and begin to thrive again. These bacteria then make you more likely to develop a leaky gut and food sensitivities…round and round it goes!

As you can see, food allergies, leaky gut and SIBO often occur together. You can’t just focus on 1 of these health issues; all should be treated at the same time if they are present.

If you are suffering with gut issues and you are not sure what to do, then get some support and guidance. Seek the help of a functional medicine doctor who can take you through the gut-restoration process.

Your health depends on a properly functioning digestive tract.

I wish you success in your quest for better health!

If you would like more information about functional medicine and integrative medicine or Dr. Sexton go to

Do your own research, inform yourself and ask lots of questions. When collecting information, you MUST consider the source. There is no shortage of false, misleading, outdated, profit-driven and utterly biased information in healthcare today; even from the most respected sources and organizations.

This approach to healthcare is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate, or prevent any disease. Why? The FDA enforces its position that these words can only be used with drugs. This approach does not use drugs.